CBP grows 14 Orions strong
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) recently announced the completion of its 14th and final planned P-3 Orion aircraft overhaul.
The CBP has been taking old P-3s (mainly A models) from the desert in the best condition and sending them through a SLEP program that provides new wings and tail for each Orion and completely strips down the aircraft to its bare metal for inspection. Out goes the Navy’s ASW gear, in goes new avionics and Custom’s mission systems, then they get a paint job in Homeland Security livery.
“AMO has provided a new lease on life for this aircraft that was sitting in the desert, just three years ago.” said Mike Toner, Designated Agency Representative at the Greenville, South Carolina Depot in a statement. “I flew the desert aircraft from Tucson, Arizona to Greenville. It’s great to see her flying in CBP colors now and ready to serve for years to come.”
Once the USN transitions fully to the P-8 by 2019, CBP will be the 4th largest user of the P-3 platform in the world behind Japan (73 P-3C and 13 modified Elint variants– though they are rapidly being replaced by the Kawasaki P-1), the Royal Australian Air Force (18 AP-3C, 1 P-3C) and the ROK Navy (16 P-3CKs). It is very likely that by 2020, once the P-1 gets fully produced, CBP will be the biggest Orion herder left.
Other P-3 operators are eager to keep their vintage birds in the air as well.
Flight Global reports that Boeing has been signed by New Zealand to conduct upgrades on their P-3K2 Orions. The $26.06 million deal will see Boeing replace aging, less reliable systems on the Orions, allowing the country to re-instate its ASW capability. What’s a P-3K2, exactly? The Kiwi Orions have been in service since 1966, with five aircraft originally delivered as P-3Bs, and then upgraded in the 1980s to P-3K standard. A subsequent upgrade saw them designated as P-3K2s. The new systems (which will make them P-3K3s?) will help keep them in the air through the mid-2020s.